I’ll be honest here… Home canning isn’t something I ever thought I’d be interested in. It always seemed like the art of a bygone era, a hot, time consuming endeavor that could involve scalding or exploding glass or poisoning loved ones. I feared making the equivalent of a glass-clad fruit cake- jars of obscure concoctions that sat in other people’s cupboards for years until they were finally tossed or re-gifted .
But over the past couple years, my curiosity has grown. Blame it on the media’s increasing attention to this home hobby. Or, (probably more accurate) blame it on a move to New England where summer lasts 12 short weeks and January brings produce as pasty as my skin tone. Last spring, I announced to Chicky that I wanted to try canning things at home. We were at the Hannaford Market in Concord, NH and I was staring at a pile of mason jars.
“Let’s buy some,” I said. Chicky hesitated, then relented with a non-commital, “Ooohhh-kay.”
I picked up a flat of the pint jars and then reached for the quarts. “Why don’t you just choose one,” Chicky suggested.
“But I like both.”
“Why don’t you just choose one until you actually start canning,” she said, no doubt plagued by visions of random jars crowding our already cluttered kitchen.
I relented and one flat of mason jars came home. A few weeks later I tried making “lemon confit” following a recipe I found in Food & Wine that entailed cutting up a bunch of lemons and preserving them in kosher salt. The recipe was easy enough, but I now have four pints of preserved lemons that I have no idea what to do with.
This wasn’t the kind of canning I had in mind. In my imagination canning involved bottling up the flavors of summer to savor in February when I haven’t seen the sun or felt my toes in weeks. It was neatly labelled jars of berries and tomatoes and sweet corn lovingly arranged in my cupboard and used on long-simmering pots of stew.
Of course, I had no idea where to start. I’m not very good with written directions; I tend to shun recipes. But I knew that if I didn’t want to maim myself of loved ones, I’d need a crash course in canning. Imagine my delight when I heard from my friend Alex about a “Canvolution” being put on by his friend Linsey, a long-time home-canner who writes the Cake and Commerce blog.
We gathered in Somerville last Sunday to make pickles, put up tomatoes and preserve jam. Alex also taught a segment on lacto-fermentation that was pretty fun (more on that soon). Five hours of demos, mixing and chatting later, I emerged a new woman; one with lots to learn, but who felt empowered and excited to go home and try this for herself. (And of course, that gives me some new material to blog about!)